Despite difficult stormy conditions plaguing the Ericeira World Junior Championships, the world's best up-and-coming surfers kept pushing the limits of performance surfing in the two-to-three foot surf on offer at Praia dos Pescadores.
Shane Sykes (ZAF), 18, broke the losing streak his fellow South African compatriots suffered in Round 2 and fired up to belt the event's highest combined heat total, an impressive 16.60 out of 20. Sykes' sharp backhand snaps on the long lefts on offer allowed the young regular footer to keep his opponent in a combination situation and out of the race.
"I got into this event with a result at the very last event of our season at Seal Point, so I'm stoked to be here," Sykes said. "I've had super frustrating surfs out here these past few days and last night I finally had a couple of good waves that got me back on my feet. I just went into that heat kind of stoked, knowing my board's good and feeling confident."
Noah Schweizer (USA), 20, found similarities with his East Coast familiar lineups and scoured the beach to find excellent waves and perform his stylish brand of surfing. The young American entered the top 3 highest heat totals of the event so far and will look to confirm his excellent form when the event resumes.
"I got pretty lucky I found a bunch of little wedges that lined up really well pretty much to the end there," Schweitzer said. "This time of year in Florida we get a lot of lefts just like this with these NorthEast swells and the wind blowing into the rights, exactly like this basically."
Noe Mar McGonagle (CRI), 19, a former fifth-place finisher in this event, kept his Portuguese campaign alive with a decisive victory in the elimination second round. McGonagle produced his signature powerful surfing and managed to advance in a tight battle with South-American newcomer Juninho Urcia (PER).
"It was a super-close heat, just like my first one," McGonagle said. "Juninho is such a great competitor, we've been competing against each other on the Latin American tour since we're really young. I was thinking it's quality not quantity of maneuvers, so to concentrate on two good turns seemed like a good idea and I was stoked to find the waves out there, I'm really happy to get through."
Lucas Silveira (BRA), 19, scored points with innovation, opting to go right when most competitors kept chasing lefthanders in the moving lineup of Praia dos Pescadores.
"I only saw lefts before I paddled out, but when that wave rolled in it looked good and I thought it'd be something different that the judges didn't see too much," Silver analyzed. "In my first round heat I lost with the best score of the heat because I couldn't find anything else. So this time I tried to build early on and got busy and it worked. I surfed a lot of waves thinking some of them would turn out good."
Mihimana Braye (PYF), 20, and Alonso Correa (PER), 18, went head-to-head in a goofy foot battle to conclude today's action. The Tahitian's power first got him in the lead but an explosive Correa came back with two big scores to briefly get back in pole position before Braye surfed a near-perfect wave for a 9.93 and the win in the dying seconds of the heat.
"I was frustrated after Round 1 and I thought this one is make or break," Braye reflected. "Conditions were really fun with the outgoing tide, it was hollower and the waves were really standing up. I knew I needed a big score to secure the win so I waited patiently. When I saw that wave double up and I had priority I couldn't believe it, I just went top to bottom the whole way, it felt like a Tahitian reef. I gave everything I had and I'm super stoked to get that score."
Surfers and event organizers will reconvene at 7:45 a.m. Saturday to reassess conditions.